≡ Menu

Is it worth buying more expensive nail polish?

white and pink

Remember a couple of weeks ago I asked you all for nail polish recommendations? Thanks to those who replied! The overwhelming recommendation was OPI, which is apparently what a lot of salons use and I didn’t even know was sold retail. But they sell it in those Sally shops, which I have avoided to date for completely irrational reasons*, so off I went to investigate and I ended up buying the light pink. My friend then bought me the white Barry M one for my birthday party, after I complained on facebook that opaque non-glittery white was hard to find.

So this ended up as a perfect compare and contrast of the two polishes to answer the question I had asked in my original request for recommendations: Is it worth spending the extra on more expensive brands?

alternate nails

I painted alternate nails with the OPI and with the Barry M to see what would happen over time. I briefly considered just painting each hand with a different colour, but that wouldn’t have been as fair, because I’m right handed, so obviously the nails on the right hand get more wear and tear.

So without further ado, here are my conclusions:

Barry M

Price: £2.95. Can’t argue with that.

Packaging: Simple and clean. Nothing exciting, but you expect that for the price, and I like it. If you were one of those people with bazillions of nail polishes, the square shape would make it easy to store.

Colour: Lots of pigment, really opaque even after one coat. The picture shows it with two coats and there is no see-through-ness at all. And actually the only matt white I’ve seen in all of Boots that isn’t a nail tip whitener for French manicure.

Application: Not great. It’s really hit and miss how much you get onto your nail, the brush affords you very little control. The polish is quite gloopy (I guess that’s all the pigment) it hides at the top and you’ve got hardly any on the tip and then all drops down in one go, so you’ve got loads on your nails and it takes ages to dry. Though I should say though that I am really inexperienced at applying polish, so I’m sure someone with more skills could make it go on evenly.

Drying time: I left about twenty minutes between each coat while watching the football, so I can’t really say. But because it’s so easy to use too much I would say it probably makes sense to err on the side of caution here.

Durability: I applied it on Monday, and by Wednesday minor cracks were starting to appear. On Thursday, a big bit started peeling off one of my nails and I started picking at it and eventually ended up taking it all off on the Friday. That being said, I applied it to my toenails on the Saturday before, so it’s been over a week and not a chip in sight.


Cost: £9.50, so mid-to high end. If you know what colour you want, there’s some cheaper offers on ebay and amazon though.

Packaging: Not as snazzy as you might expect for the price, it still has a simple feel to it. But compared to the Barry M the bottle does feel reassuringly heavy in your hand (why that is reassuring I don’t know, but it is) and the plastic of the lid has a nice matt surface.

Colour: No opaque white to be found. Instead they had five almost identical shades of light pink called things like ‘Marshmallow dreams’ and ‘Walking on a cloud’ (these are not actual names, but you get the picture). This is the lightest shade they had, called ‘Sweet Heart’, though on further investigation there is actually a white shade called ‘Alpine snow’ wasn’t in the shop. Anyway, this pink is actually a sort of French manicure-y see through shade. You need three layers to get it as opaque as in the picture. So it wasn’t really what I wanted (I wanted the white of the tips to be covered up), but actually now I prefer it. It’s really subtle and elegant if you only put on one coat, as I have while typing this.

Application: This is where the key difference lies. I don’t know how they do it, but the brush is magical. It’s really wide, so with a bit of luck you can do the entire nail in one sweep, and it distributes the polish evenly. I am really really impressed!

Drying time: Like I said, I didn’t really check, but I reckon it dries pretty quickly, because the brush lets you make it go on really thin.

Durability: Some small chips near the tips by the Thursday, but unlike the Barry M, no danger of it peeling off. I took it all off and reapplied the one coat on Friday, so not sure how long it would have lasted, but I reckon at least another couple of days.


So there you have it! Based on those two brands, and my probably inferior application skills, my answer would be yes, it’s worth spending the extra if you plan to use it for your finger nails. If it’s just for toes, I would say go with the cheaper option.

* That reason being that the 2005 London bombers bought the peroxide they used to make the bombs in a Sallys. So In my mind there’s a connection between Sallys and international terrorism. I know, not hugely rational.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Kelly 28 June 2010, 4:56 pm

    £9.50 wow! In the US I get it for about $7 a bottle, sometimes my grocery store has it for $3 on clearance (I am SO SAD I found a gorgeous gold shade on sale last week but it must have fallen out of my cart because when I got home, it was nowhere to be found). It is great polish I just feel bad because according to Google you're paying about twice what I am.

  • La Historiadora de Moda 28 June 2010, 6:06 pm

    I have found OPI quite cheap on Amazon, but I'm in the states. That and Orly are my favorite brands of nail polish at the moment.

  • Bad Taste Toast 28 June 2010, 7:52 pm

    it really sucks that opi is cheaper in the US (like probably everything cause it all comes from there or am I wrong?), but when you purchase it from there it's okay.
    It's good to hear that I'm not the only one who thinks that the more expensive polishes are better. A friend of mine snatched a Calvin klein polish in the sale for 50% off (they are regularly about 25 euro or so) and she says it's the best nailpolish she ever had.

  • sanchez 29 June 2010, 1:32 am

    I've been wondering about whether expensive nail polish really makes a difference, I used to buy a lot of sportsgirl nail polish, (they have really nice colours) but they chip so easily. Its a little depressing.

  • sanchez 29 June 2010, 1:32 am

    I've been wondering about whether expensive nail polish really makes a difference, I used to buy a lot of sportsgirl nail polish, (they have really nice colours) but they chip so easily. Its a little depressing.

  • Chelsea 29 June 2010, 3:24 am

    Thanks for this! It was very informative.
    I hate cutesy names of some nail polishes. I like the rad names or the unexpected. I remember seeing a green once called Sin. Wow, to the point?

  • Franca 29 June 2010, 6:04 am

    Yeah stuff is expensive in the UK. I heard that manicures are really cheap and abundant in the US as well, and people have them done regularly in their lunch break. Not here!

    It's weird, really. The cost of living is very high in the UK, almost everything is more expensive than elsewhere (though the change in the Euro exchange rate evens things out a bit), and still shopping is actually accepted as a hobby, like in the US. It may have changed now, but I don't remember it being like that in either Luxembourg or Germany.

  • Kelly 29 June 2010, 2:47 pm

    Well if you decide you really like OPI and want to get a bunch, it might be worth it to order from a US site and have them shipped to you. Manicures are super cheap and abundant – I don't ever get them, but there are nail salons in strip malls all over and you can get your nails done for like $15. You can get more expensive ones at fancier salons, though.

  • Kelly 29 June 2010, 2:48 pm

    I meant "super cheap and abundant in the US"

  • Erin 4 July 2010, 3:44 pm

    once i started using OPI i never looked back. it has the best application, brush, dry time, and wear of all the brand i have tried. a tip, to get the newer colors by them directly from a nail salon or Ulta. Sally's does not carry the newer shades. Also, to keep up with nail polish releases and trend I read scrangie.com

  • Marjorie P. 4 July 2010, 7:29 pm

    I love nail polish. And I love OPI nail polish. I get mine at Sephora for $9 a piece. They are worth the money. Right now I am wearing OPI in "Havana Dreams." It is the perfect blue (and I had been looking for such a shade for a long time!)

    I also like China Glaze (they have fun colors!), but those are sold at Sally's 🙂

  • K8ie 10 July 2011, 6:14 pm

    An opaque White from OPI is Alpine Snow

  • Cammi 14 May 2013, 3:07 pm

    I only buy jacava nail polish, it’s £14.50 but worth every single penny! 🙂 So beautiful and glossy